The cultural importance of food in Hawaii

Hawaii Aloha Travel > Podcast > The cultural importance of food in Hawaii

Host Lanai Tabura is back (remotely) to join Aloha Bruce for our latest Hawaii Vacation Connection Podcast. Lanai has been working non-stop on his Show Aloha Challenge Project, which is helping to connect locally-owned restaurants and food suppliers with the most vulnerable members of our community during the COVID-19 global pandemic shutdown. Bruce and Lanai talk about the cultural importance of food in Hawaii’s many cultures, and especially the native Hawaiian culture. They muse on the ubiquitous backyard luaus that are a mainstay in residential communities throughout the Aloha State. Lanai notes that Hawaii has a massive “tailgate” culture, even though we don’t have a professional major league sports team here.

Lanai talks about growing up on his home island of Lanai, where foodways were and are largely determined by the relative isolation of that island’s population. Our Emmy Award-winning host recalls the days of his youth, when most folks farmed, hunted, and fished for their food and offers anecdotes about those simpler times when the day’s hunt, catch, or harvest was shared in the community.

Lanai shares his recipe for “refrigerator fried rice”, which is made up of “extra stuff” in the refrigerator, often including the local favorite food in Hawaii Spam and whatever leftovers remain from the last prepared meal. He offers simple tips on how to make the local staple, and how quick and easy it is to put together.

Of course, the main ingredient of rice is discussed as Aloha Bruce plies Lanai about his way of cooking it. Lanai says, simply, “I use a rice cooker!” Lanai does note that the kind of rice he uses and the best way to make Hawaii-style sticky rice. Lanai suggests visiting his cookbook at, which offers a wide variety of recipes unique to the islands. The cookbook about food in Hawaii is gaining popularity around the world.

Lanai also offers his special and simple recipe for “shoyu chicken”, a dish that is as iconic in Hawaii as hotdogs are in ballparks. He offers his chef’s tips on the ingredients involved in the island’s favorite food in Hawaii and subtle variations that can be made to it. Aloha Bruce notes that during the pandemic things like rice and pasta are in very high demand.

We podcast about Hawaii because we love Hawaii.

Bruce and Lanai talk about their hopes for when Hawaii will reopen, possibly in June. They discuss the potential impacts of the COVID-19 shutdown on mainland visitors at home and the businesses that rely on their patronage here in Hawaii.

Our hosts move on to talk about Show Aloha Challenge, which has raised nearly $300,000 dollars in its effort to provide much-needed food assistance to Hawaii’s elderly kupuna (seniors) in cooperation with the Hawaii Foodbank. Lanai says more assistance is needed and tells the stories of some Hawaii seniors experiencing genuine peril as they remain isolated.

Lanai shares what his days are like as a point person for efforts to provide assistance to those that need help and coordinating the many members of the community who want to help. (Obviously, Lanai’s days are extremely busy). It is a daunting task, but the people of Hawaii are largely united in caring for the most needy and they embody the true meaning of the Aloha Spirit that Hawaii Aloha Travel strives for.